Jeremy Hunt: I will boost business to fix economy.

United Kingdom(BREXIT):Tax cuts for businesses will be prioritised over those for workers before the next general election to boost Britain’s “long-term prosperity”, Jeremy Hunt has said.The chancellor told The Times that his focus was to reduce the burden of taxation on companies as soon as inflation was brought under control.He added that while cutting business taxes may not be “eye-catching” for voters, people wanted the government to have a plan to make the nation “prosperous and successful”.Hunt was speaking as he laid out his vision to drive growth in the economy and encourage older workers back into the job market. He added that life for those who decided to retire in their fifties “doesn’t just have to be about going to the golf course”.The chancellor wants to cut business taxes that are paid before a “penny of profit” has been earned, such as business rates and employers’ national insurance. However, he is resisting calls from Tory MPs — said to include Liz Truss, the former prime minister — to use his March budget to announce immediate tax cuts to boost growth.He said he had a duty to be responsible and not just do “popular things that are going to win elections”. He added: “As soon as we have the headroom I want to bring down taxes. My priority would be business taxes, because I want people to know that we’ve got a plan for the long-term prosperity of this country.”In an appeal to more than three million over-50s who are “economically inactive”, Hunt said the government wanted to make clear that “your country needs you”. He said: “Many of those people who decide to retire in their fifties will have a life expectancy well beyond 80. That is a very long time in which a rich and happy life could be one in which work plays a very important part.”Last night it emerged that the amount that can be saved into pensions tax-free could be increased to encourage over-50s back to work. Ministers are understood to be looking at raising the lifetime allowance, according to The Daily Telegraph.Hunt also urged teachers, who are due to join nurses and ambulance workers taking industrial action, to reconsider next Wednesday’s strike.“It’s not helping anyone to harm our children’s education,” he said. “Education is one of the most important things we can do if we want to improve our skills, improve our productivity, improve people’s real wages in future.”He suggested that government departments would not be given additional money to help resolve pay disputes, meaning that they would have to make cuts to cover the cost of pay rises.He added: “If we’re going to solve the industrial tensions the only long-term way is to bring down inflation so that people don’t get angry about increases in the cost of living.”Defending his focus on tackling rising costs, Hunt said that inflation was “just too high” with core prices excluding fuel, food and tobacco still going up by about 6 per cent. “We have to recognise that the battle to bring down inflation is far from over,” he said.In a speech in London yesterday Hunt said that the “best tax cut right now is a cut in inflation”, arguing that it would lead to greater prosperity. He also said that he wanted to reverse what he called “declinism”, saying Brexit should be seen as an opportunity.He said: “Our plan for growth is necessitated, energised and made possible by Brexit. The desire to move to a high-wage, high-skill economy is one shared on all sides. We need to make Brexit a catalyst for the bold choices that will take advantage of the nimbleness and flexibilities that it makes possible.”The speech won praise from the Confederation of British Industry who said there was “much to get behind”.“It’s only by improving the UK’s languishing productivity that we can realise the huge economic potential in every corner of the country,” Tony Danker, the director-general, said.But Paul Nowak, the TUC general secretary, said Hunt was “ignoring the staffing crisis hitting schools, hospitals, care homes and other key services.”It is very unusual for a chancellor to make a keynote speech before a major event like the budget. Normally silence is the order of the day in the Treasury ahead of the “reveal” on the big day itself (Oliver Wright writes).So it says a lot about the situation that Jeremy Hunt finds himself in that he decided to set the framework for his March budget six weeks before delivering it.The reason is that Hunt wants to deliberately lower expectations amid increasingly vocal calls for tax cuts from both business groups and the Tory right.Hunt used his speech — and interview in the Times today — to say will there be no tax cuts in this budget, he made clear, because any largesse today could result in further inflationary pressures and the state of the public finances were not strong enough.He was also explicit that workers would be in the queue behind business when tax cuts do become affordable because he wants to prioritise future economic growth.Instead, Hunt said, his budget would be about the “plumbing” of the economy, designed to boost growth over the longer term by attracting the industries of the future.The risk for Hunt though of this “jam tomorrow” strategy, particularly on business taxation, is that if he waits until autumn to introduce measures to stimulate that investment and growth then the effect of those measures may not be felt before the next election.On personal taxation if he waits until next spring to announce tax cuts, it may simply be seen as a cynical attempt to “bribe” voters.

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